Exclusive: EU's Juncker dangles trade ties with Russia-led bloc to Putin

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 19, 2015 9:45 AM

VILNIUS (Reuters) - European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker wrote to Russian President Vladimir Putin this week, suggesting closer trade ties between the 28-nation EU and a Russian-led economic bloc, linking them to progress on implementing a ceasefire in Ukraine.

The letter, written after a G20 summit in Turkey and seen by Reuters, underlined the importance Juncker attached to good relations between the European Union and Moscow, "which to my regret have not been able to develop over the past year".

He said he had asked Commission officials to study options to bring the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union - a grouping of former Soviet states dominated by Moscow - closer together.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said he was surprised by the letter, which did not reflect a common view of EU member states and made no reference to EU sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Crimea and the detribalization of eastern Ukraine.

A Commission spokeswoman confirmed Juncker had written to Putin after they had a brief conversation at the G20 summit but said he had not made any new commitments in the letter.

(Reporting by Andrius Sytas; Writing by Paul Taylor; Editing by Mark John)